Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Jesuit Gets Jesuitical About The Jesuit Pope

Pope Francis prostrate before the altar in St Peter's Basilica during Good Friday services.  I would hope the red satin pillow with gold trim and tassels would pass Traditionalist inspection.

I have to admit to being somewhat bemused by the reaction of Traditionalists to Pope Francis washing the feet of two teenage girls on Thursday. I guess I didn't know it, but this somehow proves the sky really is falling.  And then Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi explains in his own inimical way that the sky is only falling in one small part of Rome.  The following excerpt is taken from an article on Vatican Insider.

......Speaking to Associated Press, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi explained that “in a "grand solemn celebration" of the rite, it would make sense to only involve men because during the Last Supper, Christ washed the feet of the 12 apostles, all of whom were male. But in the case of Casal del Marmo “the rite was for a small, unique community made up also of women. It was a specific situation in which excluding the girls would have been inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love to all in a group that certainly didn't include refined experts in liturgical rules."

That's quite the explanation.  Especially in view of the fact the original foot washing was also done for a 'small, unique community made up also of women."  I wonder why Fr Lombardi can see that leaving out women was 'inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love' in this particular case of Pope Francis and Casal de Marmo, but think it perfectly fine to assume they were excluded in the first case conducted by Jesus Himself,  and then extend that assumption to justify the exclusion of women 'in a grand solemn celebration' of the rite.  Trouble with Jesuitical explanations is they only work if one accepts the underlying assumptions as holding truth.  In any event, I doubt his Jesuitical explanation is going to sooth the troubled souls of traditional Catholics.

Over on his blog Bilgrimage, Bill Lyndsey has a couple of really fine posts on this brouha.  I found a comment by Prickliest Pear to hold perhaps a key to the angst of the Trads.  Here's the pertinent part of his comment: 

So why do the traditionalists get it so wrong?
Their thinking begins and ends with the priesthood, not with the foot-washing ritual. Their vision of the cultic priesthood as an exclusive channel through which they receive the grace of God has to be kept in mind. It is what they believe the Church is most centrally about. If they read scripture in connection with this ritual, it is to find support for their particular understanding of the priesthood.
They believe that the stories of the Last Supper in the Synoptic Gospels show where Jesus instituted the Catholic priesthood--this is reading a LOT into the text that isn't there, but when you're desperate enough to see something, sometimes you'll see it.
But what about John? The Gospel of John lacks that all-important institution-of-the-priesthood scene. The scene with the foot-washing is in it's place, and so, their thinking goes, it must be connected to the priesthood, too. It doesn't say that anywhere in the text, but they're not interested in the original meaning of the ritual, they're interested in how they can interpret it to support for their understanding of the priesthood.
And of course this requires them to misinterpret it, because that wasn't what it was about at all. (As an aside, Trads don't seem to be too interested in the fact the Gospel of John doesn't support a priesthood at all.)

 I like Prickliest Pear's comment because it crystallized a thought I had running in my head I just couldn't grab onto but knew I neither liked nor agreed with whatever this thought implied. And that thought is that so much of what Pope Benedict did symbolically seemed to say "The All Male Celibate Priesthood is Catholicism".  Everything Catholic revolves around this version of the priesthood and if Catholics don't like it they can leave.  If there aren't enough of these special cultic priests it's the fault of faithless Catholics who should just leave so that the purest believers in this Catholic priesthood can pray up more priests without all the static from the faithless.  Catholicism is about the priesthood not Jesus, but just in case some people might think Catholicism really is about Jesus, we were told the priesthood really functioned 'in persona Christi'.  Our cultic priests actually became a version of Jesus Christ when it was sacramentally necessary. Of course in order for that to happen without recourse to the actual holiness of any priest or the way he actually lived the Way, the words and rubrics of any ritual had to be done just right and without any creative deviation.  Should such things occur, as Pope Francis has been engaging in, why all things Catholic are called into serious question---meaning Francis is profaning the all important rubrics and words and nullifying the clerical magic which is Catholicism.

No, the real 'magic' is not in the words or rubrics.  It's in the Resurrection, an event that transcends the sorrows and trials of material reality, brings an efficacious Spiritual reality into matter, makes new all things, and justifies any faith we have in any version of Catholicism.  

Happy Easter to all my readers.  May this Easter bring joy to all of you because Easter truly is the Good News. 


  1. Father Lombardi is a Jesuit. I wonder what he really thinks. I wonder if he will keep his vatican job? This is tremendous.

    “The rite was for a small, unique community made up also of women. It was a specific situation in which excluding the girls would have been inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love."

    So if this small, "unique community made up also of women" to communicate a message of love is blessed by the pope. Then it seems the question can be asked whether other small unique communities that may also include girls/ women to communicate a message of love provide for women bishops, women priests, women presiders, and women confessors?

    Maybe the sky is falling. A Blessed Easter to all!

  2. I have a hunch that Benedict liked the good old times, and by old, I mean the Council of Trent... He had a vision of the beauty of rituals of times long gone. He also was a 'minimalist'. He preferred just a select few than the hoi polloi...
    Francis arrives opening the doors to all, saying Godde loves you, forgives you, heals you, welcomes you. Frankly, he reminds me of the Gospel and of the ways of Jesus.
    Interesting to see all the various schools of thoughts.
    It is with great joy that I welcome the arrival of Francis in Rome and in our lives.

  3. A Blessed Easter to all Catholics. As a member of the Orthodox Church. I'm dad to say that our Easter, ( Pascha), will be a month later-( it's a calendar issue-idiotic but true).

    I've been thinking that the major brouhaha is really about who "owns salvation". There's an interesting professor of theology ( Ilaria Ramelli), in Rome writing about the apokatastasis, ( universal restoration), a doctrine taught by Origen and many others that held that hell was not eternal but linked to an eon of time and that, because punishment was not punitive but medicinal, all sinners would be eventually restored to union with God through the Cross, Death, Resurrection and Love of Christ who they finally recognize as their Brother and Savior. This doctrine was judged to be heretical by Justinian in 553, 300 years after the death of Origen, and Origen himself declared a heretic, along with others who held the same opinion, ( Gregory of Nyssa excepted). I think Justinian definitely wanted the Church to only "own salvation" and no one else.

    Those who see the priesthood as the only "owners" of salvation are definitely afraid of such attitudes and opinions.

    Pope Francis may not be a "universalist", but he certainly is breaking down that notion of ownership.

  4. Blessed Easter to you all!

    A major historic tid-bit that seems to be lost in the WOW! surrounding female feet washing in the media is that Francis also washed the feet of 2 Muslims! (Were there Muslim among the 12?) ;-)

  5. I'm glad you posted about this. I've been reading the comments on one trad catholic blog Rorate Caeli and I'm getting worried about some of the folks writing there. They are really losing their grip and maybe their minds. Frankly if I was a friend of some of these folks, I'd wonder if they needed professional help. And that is not just me being snarky. Part of me wants to say, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." They have said the same thing to us for the last 20 years or more. The Easter part is trying to be more charitable. Really makes me wonder. I hope the Pope keeps staying at the hotel instead of the papal apartments. I think it will be safer.

  6. Happy Easter, Colleen. There does seem to be a lot of different versions of Christianity and Catholicism. The four Gospels are four different perspectives on the same theme, so why should there be a tyranny of accepting or excluding some perspectives amongst such a very large group of people coming from all sorts of cultures and nations and races? If Catholicism can not be inclusive then how can it expect others to join in the Good News when from the outset the laity in particular are alienated from participation? If its very own priests have strayed from the central message of Jesus to a favoritism of its own narcissistic pathological perspective, such a Church could not survive. Pope Francis seems to be the antidote and/or proof that the version of Christ as just a King on earth ruling tyrannically in fancy clothes is not the Way to go.

  7. From the amount of consternation coming from traditionalists on this issue, one might think that foot-washing was covered by Obamacare.

  8. I'm reading "What Happened at Trent" and I'm here to tell you: if some of those folks knew what shenanigans went on at THAT council, I don't know if they'd be so quick to claim it as the end-all and be-all of Catholicism. Happy Easter!

  9. And now apparently Papa Francesco has renounced "infallibility" at least on his watch.

  10. Thank you for the link to the Liturgy web site. I greet as good news not only Francis' renunciation of infallibility, but especially any movement he initiates toward allowing the use of 1998 English translation of the English Missal. The 1998 English translation was approved after much serious work by all the English speaking conferences and ignored by the Vatican. According to the further link at Liturgy the 1998 English translation would stand alongside the recent messy lantinized English version by Benedict.

  11. I second that. I am annoyed when I have to remember the words to the clunky new liturgy. When I attend Mass with my parents, I note that my mom usually recites the responses from the 1998 translation. My own opinion is that the bishops decided to replace the older translation with the clunky one simply because they could, and because they wanted to remind the lay folk that they feel they are in charge.

  12. That was an April Fools' joke. This was somewhat obscured by the fact that it wasn't particularly funny.

  13. About the argument that the priest must "image Christ", and since Christ was a man, then the priest must be a man. Inter Insigniores says

    The Christian priesthood is therefore of a sacramental nature: the priest is a sign, the supernatural effectiveness of which comes from the ordination received, but a sign that must be perceptible and which the faithful must be able to recognise with ease. The whole sacramental economy is in fact based upon natural signs, on symbols imprinted on the human psychology: 'Sacramental signs,' says St.Thomas,' represent what they signify by natural resemblance.' The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: when Christ's role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this 'natural resemblance' which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ himself was and remains a man.
    Do they really think that the congregation is so stupid that they could not see Christ in a woman priest? Indeed, I daresay that the congregation would find it far more difficult to see Christ in a pedophile.

    Second, and more importantly, they are bringing up a disturbing question: If women cannot represent Christ, then how can Christ represent women?

    About 1800 years ago, Irenaeus of Lyons, wrote Quod non assumpsit, non redemit -- "That which is not assumed is not redeemed". In other words, if Christ were not truly human, he could not have redeemed humanity. This has been the officially orthodox Christian belief ever since the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

    But if Christ is only male, then he cannot have redeemed women. This is completely unacceptable to any Christian. Thus, the Vatican's statement that only men can bear a true image of Christ makes no sense theologically.

  14. Indeed. I have long thought that if women cannot be ordained priests because they are the wrong gender, then in reality the hierarchy is asking for 2 completely separate spiritual/religious communities - one for men and one for women - and never the 2 shall meet. What God speaks to women, She only speaks to women; what God speaks to men, He only speaks to men. This is also something that most Christians would find completely unacceptable. At least I would hope so.